Korean invasion in the local beauty industry

By Patricia Hului

THEY ARE EVERYWHERE! An example very close to home is here in Kuching. You can find them at the Spring Shopping Mall, Boulevard Kuching and CityOne.


What am I talking about? I’m talking about these Korean beauty outlets popping up in every shopping mall we go with K-Pop endorsers gracing most of their posters!


K-Pop singers and beauty endorsements


K-Pop or Korean pop is known for their catchy tunes with repetitive choruses, perfectly formed singers and alleged plastic surgery reports.


The Korean wave, also known as the ‘Hallyu’ wave, doesn’t just stop with the music industry but includes its drama series with many K-Pop singers seen acting in major Korean dramas and films.


Now another trend surfacing rapidly is the establishment of beauty outlets endorsed mostly by these K-Pop stars.


Endorsing Korean beauty products is not just a girl thing. SHINee, a 5-member boy band have been the spokespersons for Etude House since October 2011 while the official international ambassador of The Face Shop is heartthrob Kim Hyun Joong of SS501.


Are these K-Pop stars the main driving force behind the blooming of Korean beauty products in our country?


Riding the fame wave led by these singing sensations is a brilliant marketing strategy by Korean beauty companies. Yet, you have to admit one main thing: the Korean beauty industry’s technology is way more advanced than most countries.


Innovativeness in the Korean beauty industry


One major innovation in the realm of beauty products by the Korean beauty industry is the BB cream. BB stands for ‘blemish balm’ or ‘beauty balm’, and it works as a moisturiser, primer and foundation.


Although BB cream was originally formulated by a German dermatologist in the 1960s, it was the Koreans who highly promoted and endorsed the use of it.


Initially the dermatologist, Dr Christine Schrammek formulated BB cream to protect her patients’ skin after facial peels and surgery.


Korean companies reinvented BB cream by putting extra properties such as anti-aging, whitening and soothing acne, sun spots and age spots.


Putting on a facial mask is one thing, but putting on foot mask? No one would think of that, but The Face Shop came up with a product called ‘Smile Foot Peeling Mask’ to peel off all that dry skin on your feet.


If there is any breakthrough in beauty industry, don’t be surprised if a Korean company is behind it.

KOREAN FOREVER 21: Etude House is dubbed 'Forever 21' in the Korean beauty industry because it caters to young people, hence the girlish décor of the store.

KOREAN FOREVER 21: Etude House is dubbed ‘Forever 21’ in the Korean beauty industry because it caters to young people, hence the girlish décor of the store.


“I choose Korean products because they use natural ingredients such as eggs, aloe vera and charcoal,” said Muhammad Zahir Opong, a 23-year-old fresh graduate.
Skin Food and Nature Republic are among the beauty brands that run under the concept of natural products.


Besides banana being the main ingredient for a concealer stick, Skin Food’s other products that incorporate food include their ‘Mango Soft Cream Wax’ and even black bean in their eyeliner. This South Korea-based cosmetic built their empire by developing foods into skincare products.


The amazing thing is, the Koreans took the word ‘exotic’ to whole another level with the use of snail slime, bee venom, bird nests and numerous of other out-of-the-box ingredients.


Yes, you heard me correctly; snail slime and bee venom.


South Korea is not the first country to use snail slime but just like the BB cream, they are the ones who popularised it.


An example of a bee venom product would be Nature Republic’s Bee Venom Spot Treatment. What I find funny about using bee venom as a skincare product is how it works.


Essentially, putting on bee venom is fooling your skin into thinking it’s been stung so your brain will send signals to pump blood to the area and stimulate production of collagen and elastin, which are the proteins in our bodies’ connective tissues.


Aloe vera is known to be effective for dry or sunburnt skin. Shelly Hazliza, a 25-year-old occupation auditor clerk, claimed her favourite Korean beauty product so far was Nature Republic’s Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera 92% soothing gel claiming that it can be used on your face, lips and even your hair.


Something coming from one single source yet can be applied on different parts of your body; not a bad idea at all.


The meaning of beauty


Another reason why Korean beauty products are such a hit here in Malaysia is because they promote products that feed our general ideals of beauty.


Asians are obsessed with fair complexion. We are like real-life queens from Snow White asking the mirror who is the fairest of them all when it comes to beauty.
As you can see in every Korean beauty brand, whitening properties are a must-have feature in their skincare products range.


Not all Malaysians are born with fair complexions though. Picking beauty ambassadors with ridiculously porcelain-like skin makes you wonder; where do dark-toned skin people fit in?


TONYMOLY: Tonymoly Outlet at CityOne Shopping Mall, Kuching.

TONYMOLY: Tonymoly Outlet at CityOne Shopping Mall, Kuching.


The truth is they work


Putting aside the meaning of beauty promoted by Koreans and the hiring of K-Pop singers as endorsers; the reality is that most Korean beauty products are good and most importantly, they work.


Wendy Ritcher Bungun, 27, shared that she didn’t know who Laneige’s endorsers were until she actually purchased a Laneige product.


Laneige is a brand that focuses on using water to maintain moist skin and is endorsed by Song Hye Kyo, a South Korean actress who gained fame through television drama such as ‘Full House’ and ‘Autumn in My Heart’.


The truth is most of us couldn’t care less who are the endorsers. If the product is good, it is good. People will keep coming back for more.


I guess our local beauty brands such as Mustika Ratu, Safi and Simplisiti have to pump up their game plans to compete with Korean brands.

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